Why is My Tongue Yellow?

Why is My Tongue Yellow?

A tongue that is yellow in color can be a sign of jaundice, which is a liver condition that results in the body’s inability to metabolize bilirubin. The yellow color in your tongue may also be due to smoking, eating foods like turmeric or curry, or other conditions.

This article will discuss the various reasons for your tongue turning yellow.

What Causes Your Tongue to Turn Yellow?

Oral Products

Oral hygiene products can make your tongue turn yellow because they contain chemical compounds that are colorless but will turn the tongue a yellowish-orange.

These chemicals are often used as a food dye or to enhance the colors in the product. When the chemicals come in contact with saliva, they change colors and can make a person’s tongue look yellowish-orange.

Bad Oral Health

The tongue is an important part of the body’s immune system. The surface of the tongue is covered with tiny bumps called papillae. These bumps contain taste buds for sensing food and liquid, as well as bacteria that help to digest food. When you maintain bad oral health, the bacteria can build up on the tongue, making it turn yellow.

Use of Tobacco

Tobacco use can cause your tongue to turn yellow. Tobacco use will not only cause your tongue to turn yellow, but it will also cause you to have bad breath and a higher risk of cancer. The more tobacco you use, the more yellow your tongue will get. In order to have a healthy mouth and avoid the risks of tobacco, it is important to quit using tobacco.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is the lack of saliva in your mouth. When your mouth is dry, it can cause your tongue to turn yellow. When you have dry mouth, you might not be producing enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. If left untreated, dry mouth can lead to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease.

There are many reasons for dry mouth including medications, smoking, dehydration, certain diseases, and stress. If you find that you are experiencing symptoms of dry mouth then speak with your doctor. There are treatments that can help ease the symptoms of dry mouth such as artificial saliva products or using a humidifier at night.

Black Hairy Tongue

Black Hairy Tongue is caused by a yeast overgrowth on the tongue. The yeast consumes oxygen and creates sulfur compounds that produce the black, hairy, and yellow appearance of the tongue.

The tongue will typically be rough, thickened, and coated with white patches or white spots. You may also experience bad breath or difficulty swallowing because the yeast causes the tongue to swell and become thicker.

Food with Artificial Colors

Some people say that consuming food with artificial colors can cause your tongue to turn yellow. The dye is mixed with the food coloring, and it stains your tongue.

Certain Drugs or Medication

Certain drugs or medications can cause your tongue to turn yellow. This is due to the accumulation of a chemical called bilirubin in the body, which may affect the color of your tongue. The most common medications that can cause your tongue to turn yellow are:

  • Medications to manage diabetes
  • Medications for blood-thinning
  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • Antibiotics
  • Iron salts
  • Chlorhexidine (prevalent in disinfectant mouth rinses)
  • Minocycline
  • Radiation and cancer medications
  • Bismuth subsalicylate
  • Antipsychotic medications

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a common yeast infection of the mouth. It can cause your tongue to turn yellow and white patches on the inside of your cheeks. It may also be accompanied by a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, or an abnormal taste in your mouth. More serious complications can include breathing problems, dental problems, and even heart disease.

If you suspect you have oral thrush, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to get treatment.

Geographic Tongue

Geographic Tongue is a common disorder that causes one’s tongue to turn yellow. It can also cause red bumps on the back of the tongue, which are flat and scaly. Geographic tongue is not contagious and it doesn’t cause pain or discomfort.


Jaundice is a condition of the skin and eyes, which causes them to turn yellow. This is the result of a buildup of bilirubin from the liver, which is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. The condition can be triggered by high levels of bilirubin, iron deficiency, and blood diseases such as hemolytic anemia.

Jaundice also causes the tongue to turn yellow. Jaundice is typically treated with medication that helps to lower the levels of bilirubin in the body.

Autoimmune Conditions & Eczema

Eczema and autoimmune conditions can cause your tongue to turn yellow. The specific cause is usually not known, but it may occur when the body’s immune system is attacking the body’s own tissues.

This is called an autoimmune disease. It can happen in people with eczema because the inflammation over time can lead to a change in the tissue which may make it yellow.

Gastric Infections

Yellowing of the tongue is one of the most common symptoms of a gastric infection, and it’s something that people often don’t think to check for when they’re looking for signs of an infection. Often, people will mistake the yellowing of the tongue for something like jaundice, which is actually a symptom of liver disease, and not an infection.

Who Has the Highest Risk of Yellow Tongue?

Yellow tongue is a common symptom of many different diseases, including hepatitis, oral thrush, and leukoplakia. The most common cause of yellow tongue is bacteria that leads to oral thrush.

This is the growth of yeast on the tongue’s surface. Oral thrush is often seen in people with HIV, leukemia, diabetes, or other medical conditions. It may also be seen in newborns or in people taking antibiotics.

Other yellow tongue risk factors include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Heavy consumption of coffee or black tea
  • Tobacco use
  • Betel nut use
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol use
  • Cancer
  • Neurological conditions
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Disabling conditions

What are the Ways to Treat Yellow Tongue?

A yellow tongue may be the result of a poor oral hygiene. The yellow color is most likely due to the accumulation of food debris, bacteria, and cellular debris on the tongue. This can be corrected by good oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing.

If this is not enough, then the dentist may prescribe an antiseptic mouthwash or toothpaste to eliminate the bacteria on your tongue. There are also some over-the-counter remedies that you can buy to clean your tongue including: hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.

When Should You See a Doctor for Yellow Tongue?

Yellow tongue is a common side effect of smoking and drinking and can be caused by certain medications and liver disease. When you notice a change in your tongue’s color, it is best to contact your doctor to see if they can give you any insight into why or what may be causing the change.

Final Thoughts

Yellow tongue is not a disease, but a sign of poor oral hygiene. Yellow tongue is sometimes mistaken for discoloration from medications or other medical conditions. However, most cases of yellow tongue are due to the accumulation of bacteria from poor oral hygiene.

The bacteria can turn the surface of the tongue an unhealthy yellow color and cause bad breath. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to cavities and gum disease. To avoid yellow tongue, it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once per day.

About the author

Johnny is dedicated to providing useful information on commonly asked questions on the internet. He is thankful for your support ♥

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